Having followed NASCAR for the better part of 30 years and having become even more interested the last few, I was very excited to learn that Kyle Petty was publishing a book. To read about the sport from one of the most successful racing families was something to look forward to, and the book did not disappoint. Here is my review of "Swerve or Die"
Title/Author: “Swerve or Die: Life at My Speed in the First Family of NASCAR Racing” by Kyle Petty and Ellis Henican
Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)
Review: The family of Petty is one of the most famous families in auto racing. Lee Petty won the first sanctioned NASCAR race and his son Richard has the most wins at the highest level of NASCAR competition (Cup races) at 200. Richard’s son Kyle won Cup races as well, and grandson Adam, who won his first ARCA race, was destined for success as well. The stories of this legendary race family – the good, the bad, the funny and the tragic – are told in this excellent memoir by Kyle Petty, written with Ellis Henican.
It’s hard to unpack where to begin when describing this book because while it follows the family story from Kyle’s viewpoint in chronological order, it doesn’t really fit into one nice flow as Kyle goes from topic to topic – from family life to driving on the famous Daytona track as a teenager to passing down the love of racing to his sons. Changing the focus of a particular passage fits the personality of Kyle because while he was born into a racing family, he had many other interests and talents that he has used to his benefit for his life outside racing.
Kyle talks about his musical talents that has had him performing on stage as an opening act for some of the biggest names in country music. He mentions that even though he was disappointed that his driving career ended because the team (not Petty Enterprises, the team that both he and his father not only drove for, but also ran as the CEO – and both eventually stepped down from that spot) determined that he would not drive any longer, not his decision. He credits his interest in music and television broadcasting as his way of staying connected with the sport. Currently, he is an analyst for NBC’s coverage of NASCAR and hosts other talk shows and podcasts on racing.
As one might expect, he expressed his grief over the lost of his son when Adam Petty was killed in a practice run at New Hampshire Speedway in 2000. Adam was only 19, but not only was he focused on his driving career, he wanted to help others. It led to another project that kept Kyle from becoming another athlete who wonders what to do when they no longer are competing. A camp for children with severe medical conditions, Victory Junction, was started in Adam’s memory and is still a very popular camp where these children can just have fun for a week.
Kyle writes from a knowledgeable viewpoint, no matter what the racing topic would be. He worked on cars – he wrote about the detail his father taught him while doing that. He drove in races – he writes about his struggles behind the wheel as well as his victories. He ran a racing organization, as mentioned above. He is a successful broadcaster – he writes about the issues he sees and the people he talks to every week. He also writes about family – from his parents and grandparents to his children and his spouses (been married twice). Just about anything one would want to know about NASCAR and Kyle Petty will be found here. It is a great read for race fans and fans of the Petty family.
I wish to thank St. Martin’s Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.